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Sir Henry Thomas De la Beche1

Lawrence J. Chubb
Lawrence J. Chubb
Deceased; formerly Geological Survey of Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica
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April 2010

ABSTRACT (S.K. Donovan)

Henry Thomas De la Beche (1796–1855) was one of a distinguished group of gentleman geologists whose activities and abilities inspired and drove the Geological Society in London in the first half of the nineteenth century. De la Beche, both a devoted field geologist and, later, an expert administrator, is best remembered for his contribution as the first director of the first national geological survey, that of Great Britain. De la Beche was also the first Antillean geologist, visiting Jamaica for a year in 1823–1824 to inspect his family estate at Halse Hall, parish of Clarendon. In Jamaica, De la Beche made a geological map of the eastern half of the island, a tremendous achievement for one man in 12 months; the principal features of this map are still recognizable to the modern geologist. De la Beche identified the main lithological divisions of the Jamaican rock record; his white limestone formation is still current, as the White Limestone Group, for the most extensive lithological unit on the island. De la Beche's correlation of the lower part of this formation (= Yellow Limestone Group of modern usage), containing giant Cerithium snails (= Campanile trevorjacksoni Portell and Donovan, 2008), with European successions containing similar fossils was the earliest example of intercontinental biostratigraphic correlation. His intercontinental lithostratigraphic correlations were erroneous, but accepted at a time when the value of biostratigraphy was poorly understood. In particular, his recognition of many pre-Cretaceous deposits was a glaring, if understandable, error based on De la Beche's correlations which relied on lithostratigraphic similarities between European and Jamaican formations.

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Figures & Tables


GSA Memoirs

Jamaican Rock Stars, 1823–1971: The Geologists Who Explored Jamaica

Edited by
Stephen K. Donovan
Stephen K. Donovan
Department of Geology Nationaal Natuurhistorisch Museum, Naturalis, Leiden, The Netherlands
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Lawrence J. Chubb
Lawrence J. Chubb
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John B. Williams
John B. Williams
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Geological Society of America
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